Step through the unassuming doors of The Museum of Cornish Life, Helston, for a truly breath-taking surprise!
This lovely old fashioned museum, housed in the town’s historic Market Buildings, is spread over five display halls on three floors, and the thousands of objects will keep you fascinated, entertained, and coming back for more!
The museum houses one of the largest social history collections in the South West, and ranges from archaeological evidence of the earliest settlers to the Lizard Peninsula, to a fully stocked 1950s kitchen. Come and learn about Helston’s famous inventor, Henry Trengrouse, whose ingenuity helped to save thousands of lives at sea. Marvel at the huge 5 ton cider press, meet Henry the parrot and see if you can spot our smallest object – made from a lion’s tooth! The museum is renowned for its costume collection, and a regularly changing display showcases some of the elegant fashions of the past.
Of course, no visit to Helston would be complete without mention of Flora Day, and the museum holds a fabulous collection of photographs of this unique custom. We also play a starring role on the day as the Midday Dance winds through the museum! Don’t miss the Flora Day clock, which for a small fee, will burst into life with a rendition of the famous Furry Dance.
Housed in Helston’s former Market House and Drill Hall, the museum building itself offers a valuable insight into the history and architecture of the town. Although the museum was founded in 1949, the building was originally designed as the town’s Market House in 1837, with two separate buildings – one for butter and eggs, the other the meat market, and retains the original sloping granite floor.
The Museum expanded into the meat market in the early 1980s, then into the adjoining Drill Hall in 1999. A suspended gallery, the Loft, was also added at this time that in turn allowed the creation of the mezzanine art gallery.
A notable feature in front of the building is a cannon salvaged from the wreck of the frigate HMS Anson which foundered off Loe Bar in 1807. Around 100 sailors’ lives were lost in the disaster which led to the pioneering work of Henry Trengrouse, featured in the Museum’s Drill Hall.
The Museum’s collection reflects both the social and industrial history of The Lizard Peninsula, from mining, fishing and farming through to home life in the 18th – 20th centuries.
The displays are complemented by the mezzanine gallery, used for regular art exhibitions and workshops, and the museum shop that provides a fine range of silver and local jewellery, cards, local books and minerals.
Previously run by Cornwall Council, management of the museum was taken over by the South Kerrier Heritage Trust in August 2013. The Trust is a local registered charity working with the community, and day to day work at the museum is largely undertaken by volunteers.
In 2018 the museum was renamed “Museum of Cornish Life, Helston” to reflect what is in the museum’s fabulous collection, not only to visitors, but funders too, we hope that this will open a lot of new doors for the museum and intrigue a whole new audience to find out about Cornish life in our museum.